It was a quiet and ordinary evening at Shamshabad Colony in Haryana’s Palwal city, indistinguishable from any other evening on a weekday. Mukesh, 30, had just come back home from work when some unexpected visitors turned up at his doorstep — a police team, a bomb disposal squad, firefighters and paramedics.
The events that followed, on October 10, were anything but ordinary.
Mukesh was told by police that his friend Aarti, who had kept a large bag at his house a few days ago, had hidden three explosives in it.
The bomb squad found the three explosives inside a glass jar in Aarti’s bag. They were desi bombs, which explode on impact after hitting a surface.
Nearly a week after the three bombs were found, and defused, Mukesh is still visibly shaken.
“Aarti came to my house and handed over the bag… she said there were some breakable items inside so I should keep it carefully, since I have small children,” he says.
Mukesh, who fixes cane furniture for a living, says he is still trying to come to terms with the fact that Aarti had decided to hide the three bombs in his house, where he lives with his wife and three daughters, all of them under 10 years of age. Shamshabad Colony has over 10,000 people,
“If Mukesh’s children had stumbled onto the bag, while playing, most of the neighbourhood would have turned to rubble,” said Head Constable Rajesh Kumar, of the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Hodal.
According to police, each of the three bombs, made with firecracker powder, nails, glass and stones, was “five times stronger than a hand grenade”.
He doesn’t want to think about what would have happened if the bombs had accidentally exploded inside his house.
“It is just a matter of chance that the bombs didn’t go off. While working at home, I sometimes fling implements and other items towards the corner where I had kept the bag… but somehow, I didn’t have that much work and I also wasn’t keeping well. If I had thrown any item on the bag, while working, and one of them had hit the glass jar inside, we would all have been dead by now,” says Mukesh.
On how he and Aarti know each other, Mukesh said he first met her in 2010, when she moved to his neighbourhood in Palwal’s Shekhpura village.
“I left the village a couple of years later… I hadn’t met her since then… until she came to my house a fortnight ago,” says Mukesh. He says Aarti tracked him down with the help of their mutual acquaintances.
Mukesh says Aarti sought his help in tracking down her ex-boyfriend, Rakesh, who had left her after six years and gone back to his estranged wife and children.
“She asked me to help her find him, because she had heard that Rakesh and his family were in Gurgaon, and I know a lot of people there,” he says. But, Mukesh says, he refused to help her.
“I told her that I have a job and a family, and I couldn’t just drop everything to go to Gurgaon,” he says. Aarti then handed Mukesh the luggage, and asked him to “keep it carefully” in his home while she visited the market, says Mukesh.
“She said she would come back and take it, but she never returned,” he says.
Days later, Aarti told police about the bombs, and where she had hidden them, after she and her friend Pradeep were arrested for allegedly murdering Babu Lal, Rakesh’s distant relative.
“We immediately called the bomb disposal squad and went to Mukesh’s house, along with ambulances and fire tenders,” says SI Abbas Khan, in-charge of CIA, Hodal.
The area around Mukesh’s house in Shamshabad Colony was evacuated upto 500 metres as members of the bomb squad swung into action and began defusing the bombs. “We asked people to evacuate the area. Some of them waited beyond the perimetre set up by the bomb squad, while the others went to the residences of their friends and relatives. Those who had no place to go to were taken to the police station, or other safehouses,” says Head Constable Rajesh Kumar.
He added, “The devices were finally defused at 8 pm, four hours after we reached the spot, and the area was declared safe.”
Mukesh’s neighbours still find it hard to believe that three live bombs were hidden, for days, a stone’s throw away from their residences.
“There were three little children in the house… what are the chances that something left behind so carelessly, for days, wasn’t touched or disturbed at all? It is nothing short of a miracle that this neighborhood is still standing,” says a resident.